San Diego, California, has flirted with spring outdoor alternative professional football leagues in the past, but never has had a team take the field.
The home of the National Football League’s Chargers since 1961, San Diego twice was a target of the United States Football League. In both 1983 and 1984, San Diego was considered for a USFL team – only to be rebuffed for a stadium lease (at then-Jack Murphy Stadium) by prospective owners in both instances.
San Diego did not have a team in either the World League of American Football (1991-92) or the XFL (2001).
The Chargers continue to call the former Jack Murphy Stadium, now Qualcomm Stadium, home. The stadium seats 70,561 fans for football, but the Chargers aren’t getting that many fans into the stands for home games very often these days. Their average percentage of capacity filled per home game ranked 30th in the NFL in 2012 (83.9 percent), 25th in 2011 (91.7), 23rd in 2010 (91.9 percent), 24th in 2009 (94.7 percent) and 26th in 2008 (95.6 percent).
If a new spring outdoor alternative pro football league wanted to think outside of the box – or if the city would continue to give a new league lease trouble three decades later – it could try to convince the city and Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres to use PETCO Park, the home of the Padres since 2004. Its capacity (42,000-plus) is enticing, but, as always with a baseball-only facility, configuring the playing surface for football could be challenging.
San Diego is the 28th-largest United States television market, according to Nielsen.
BOTTOM LINE – While the average percentage of capacity filled per home game isn’t the NFL’s highest, the Chargers still draw 60,000 or more fans routinely. That fan base, in conjunction with being an “untapped” market in terms of spring outdoor alternative pro football, would make San Diego attractive – as long as city officials went along with the idea.